Arianna is nineteen years old and still has not had her first menstrual cycle. Despite the fact that her breasts have become slightly enlarged, which causes her some discomfort, the hormones her gynecologist prescribed for her do not seem to be helping with her maturation. One summer her parents decide to take her back to the lake house in Bolsena where they all used to go on vacation. Arianna has not been back there since she was three years old. While staying in the house, old memories start to come back to Arianna and like pieces of a puzzle, start to slowly fall into place. When her parents tell her it is time to return to the city for a few days, Arianna wants to stay behind to study for her exams. Her father accepts, but for some reason the idea makes her mother extremely uncomfortable; actually her mother has been acting strangely ever since they arrived at the lake house. On her own, as the first afternoons go by slowly and silently, Arianna’s investigation of her past also includes the exploration of her body. The encounter with her young cousin Celeste, whose feminine figure is distinctly different than Arianna’s, as well as the fact that, unlike her, Celeste has already lost her virginity, pushes Arianna to confront the true nature of her sexuality.
Arianna is a film that comes from far away, from the unexpected thought of the subconscious of a child that one day dreams of becoming a woman and from then on finds himself confronted with a fundamental question he had never considered: why are we given this identity and not another? That child is me at nine and the dreams in which I imagined being someone else continued for a long period during my late infancy, a time when children start questioning their terrestrial existence. The debris of those dreams, maybe the resurfacing of their memories, are the emotional origin of this film. Arianna is a film that questions the relationship between power and abnormality and the consequence of this conflict.
I started writing the first drafts six or seven years ago, alone to start with and then with Carlo Salsa, a screenwriter and dear friend, with whom I have shared crazy months of seclusion and obsessive re-writing, without knowing, at least to begin with, what the film’s final shape would have been (the fear of giving this work a definite identity was a long lasting obstacle for me). In the last year before we started filming, Chiara Barzini also joined us, helping us where Carlo and I had failed to reach. Re-writing on set was also constant, because of what working with the actors offered us time after time and because of the discovery of potentials or limits that before filming were unimaginable. When Tommaso Bertani arrived to pull the film out of a difficult situation by completely taking over production responsibilities, we realized that the only way we could complete this task was by sticking as much as possible to limited economic and production boundaries and by trying to shoot with a group of people willing to make sacrifices and to fully embrace the project. We managed also thanks to the support of the cinematographer Hélène Louvart, who worked on Saturdays and Sundays, with a depleted crew, to film what we needed for the story: some of the most beautiful scenes would never had existed if we hadn’t filmed this way. On top of this, the filming took place almost exclusively in one location, the house of a friend on Lake Bolsena, or in its surroundings, in the woods and tuff stone roads of my childhood, of my summers spent here as a kid, places I know well, full of memories that, similarly to what happens in the film Arianna, started to resurface while we were filming. With Hélène we tried finding a simple, essential, almost primitive style and this is true also for the music, composed by Emanuele de Raymondi: we wanted to try and echo what these ancient places, as ancient as the myth of Hermaphrodites, evoked.
On set, as days went past, Ondina Quadri (who interprets Ariannna), who was inevitably more rigid and nervous at the beginning, gradually started to bloom and transform, as if the desire for femininity of the character had possessed her. Over time an unexpected and unforeseen femininity flourished and I decided to adapt to it. Each of the other characters also carriers at least one of the attitudes that modernity has towards hermaphroditism. The mother and father (Massimo Popolizio and Valentina Carnelutti) are bearers, more or less in good faith, of that medical knowledge (the father is a doctor) that sees in hermaphroditism an error to correct. Medical knowledge that obviously corresponds to a power system that needs very clear rules to function. Celeste (Blu Yoshimi) is a mirror in which one can look at what might of been but was not, fulfilled femininity. Martino is the inability to live a complete heterosexual relationship (an hermaphrodite cannot enjoy pleasure because it isn’t part of the parameters of rightness and this is why he’s emasculated – punished – to be made normal). Arduino (Corrado Sassi) is a stutterer that lives outside the rules of normality and that deep down, and for this reason, acts as a detonator for the discovery of the truth. The house, which is also a real character, hides the memories and reveals them when Arianna is ready to accept them. Of course these are only clues, but they were useful in order to structure the characters. Another aspect that I tried to analyze in the work with the actors was psychodrama. In the scene with the girls at the women’s house we enacted a real psychodrama that showed us, and the films shows this spontaneously, how much this theme, the theme of sexual identity and pleasure, is a theme that concerns us all and which we should question more.
For me it was important that there should be no confrontation between Arianna and her parents at the end of the film. The judgement of moral behaviour doesn’t want to focus on them, but rather on the power system they belong to. Arianna’s gaze that observes her parents dancing at the party catapults her far away, beyond this judgment, towards a place of forgiveness where she can hope to find herself, without for this reason accepting being a victim. There is another contrast between the house, where everything seems to live out of time, and the hospital, where we are born and die, and where Arianna was emasculated, where she was forbidden to belong to the world, at least to that world that is nothing else but the reflection of an image projected too long ago to also include within it the hermaphrodite.
A Production of
In Association with
EMANUELE DE RAYMONDI
ZAZIE GNECCHI RUSCONE
BENEDETTA DEL VECCHIO
1st Assistant Director
MARCELLO DE ARCHANGELIS
LEONARDO GUERRA SERÁGNOLI